A rich historical novel of Germans who plotted against Hitler.



In Schrader’s historical epic, a group of Germans acts against the Nazi regime.

Germany, 1938. Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party have changed the face of Germany. While many Germans seem to almost worship the new leader, the young Baron Philip von Feldberg is not so sure about the direction the country has taken. “Philip noted the huge Nazi flag flapping before the station and caught sight of the straw swastikas hung on the Christmas tree at the post office. In one of the store windows, someone had placed a photo of Adolf Hitler and adorned it with greens and a candle as if it were the picture of the Virgin or a saint.” Regardless of his feelings for the Führer, Philip is a member of the German General Staff, the group of men who will be in charge of executing the war that Hitler seems to be itching to start. It turns out he isn’t the only Hitler-skeptical member of the General Staff. He soon strikes up a friendship—and more—with an outspoken secretary named Alexandra Mollwitz. There are others who are horrified by the Nazi’s excesses: Marianne Moldenhauer, a fed-up factory worker; Peter Kessler, a disillusioned Gestapo officer; even Alexandra’s boss, Gen. Friedrich Olbricht. But are these Germans willing to betray their government in order to save Germany—and maybe the world—from destruction? Schrader’s prose is spare but fluid, as here when illustrating a camp Marianne attends during her national labor service: “The Duty Leader woke the girls in the barrack with the usual loud ringing of the bell, followed by shouts of ‘Wake up! Wake up!’ A chorus of groans and muttered curses could be heard as the girls rolled out of their bunks, and the everyday chaos of a hundred girls rushing to the showers began.” The author is less adept at handling some of the romantic relationships—they are quickly established and largely uncomplicated—but romance is perhaps not the point of the book. The novel is a deeply researched window into the wartime lives of Germans at odds with Hitler’s regime, and while the story of Operation Valkyrie may be well known, Schrader offers the larger context for the German resistance with admirable depth and detail.

A rich historical novel of Germans who plotted against Hitler.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021


Page Count: -

Publisher: Cross Seas Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2021

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Who tells your story? Williams illuminates why women needed to be in the room where, and when, it’s written.


The Herculean efforts required to assemble the Oxford English Dictionary are retold, this time from a fictionalized, distaff point of view, in Williams’ debut novel.

Esme Nicoll, the motherless young daughter of a lexicographer working in the Scriptorium—in reality, a garden shed in Oxford where a team led by James Murray, one of the OED’s editors, toiled—accompanies her father to work frequently. The rigor and passion with which the project is managed is apparent to the sensitive and curious Esme, as is the fact that the editorial team of men labors under the influence of Victorian-era mores. Esme begins a clandestine operation to rescue words which have been overlooked or intentionally omitted from the epic dictionary. Her childhood undertaking becomes a lifelong endeavor, and her efforts to validate the words which flew under the (not yet invented) radar of the OED gatekeepers gain traction at the same time the women’s suffrage movement fructifies in England. The looming specter of World War I lends tension to Esme’s personal saga while a disparate cast of secondary characters adds pathos and depth. Underlying this panoramic account are lexicographical and philosophical interrogatives: Who owns language, does language reflect or affect, who chooses what is appropriate, why is one meaning worthier than another, what happens when a word mutates in meaning? (For example, the talismanic word first salvaged by Esme, bondmaid, pops up with capricious irregularity and amorphous meaning throughout the lengthy narrative.) Williams provides readers with detailed background and biographical information pointing to extensive research about the OED and its editors, many of whom appear as characters in Esme’s life. The result is a satisfying amalgam of truth and historical fiction.

Who tells your story? Williams illuminates why women needed to be in the room where, and when, it’s written.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-16019-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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An exhilarating ride through Americana.

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Newly released from a work farm in 1950s Kansas, where he served 18 months for involuntary manslaughter, 18-year-old Emmett Watson hits the road with his little brother, Billy, following the death of their father and the foreclosure of their Nebraska farm.

They leave to escape angry townspeople who believe Emmett got off easy, having caused the fatal fall of a taunting local boy by punching him in the nose. The whip-smart Billy, who exhibits OCD–like symptoms, convinces Emmett to drive them to San Francisco to reunite with their mother, who left town eight years ago. He insists she's there, based on postcards she sent before completely disappearing from their lives. But when Emmett's prized red Studebaker is "borrowed" by two rambunctious, New York–bound escapees from the juvie facility he just left, Emmett takes after them via freight train with Billy in tow. Billy befriends a Black veteran named Ulysses who's been riding the rails nonstop since returning home from World War II to find his wife and baby boy gone. A modern picaresque with a host of characters, competing points of view, wandering narratives, and teasing chapter endings, Towles' third novel is even more entertaining than his much-acclaimed A Gentleman in Moscow (2016). You can quibble with one or two plot turns, but there's no resisting moments such as Billy's encounter, high up in the Empire State Building in the middle of the night, with professor Abacus Abernathe, whose Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers, and Other Intrepid Travelers he's read 24 times. A remarkable blend of sweetness and doom, Towles' novel is packed with revelations about the American myth, the art of storytelling, and the unrelenting pull of history.

An exhilarating ride through Americana.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522235-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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